People want to express how they feel in pictures, not words. This is the mantra of tech world soothsayers and the backbone behind major platform revamps like Facebook’s recent inclusion of emoji-like “reactions.” If something makes you sad, post a sad face. If you’re happy, post a smiley.
But if you’re looking to be ahead of the curve, forget about emojis. Our future is one of GIFs.
“As soon as everyone and every kid knows you can text a GIF and it will play in iMessage, emojis will be dead,” says Alex Chung nonchalantly from his panel at Techweek New York. Chung has a stake in the game as CEO and co-founder of Giphy, the massive GIF database and potential media empire. But from where he sits, it’s obvious: texting someone you’re hungry doesn’t really say how hungry you are. Neither does sending a hamburger emoji. You know what does say hunger? A GIF of kid dancing while he chews.
Chung says that Giphy has four mobile apps coming out soon and will be announcing collaboration deals with major messaging platforms within the next few days. Their integration into Slack is peanuts — soon, in a world predicted by Giphy, sending GIFs will be an automatic response when expressing how you feel.
Expression is the key word here, and what Chung says humans are looking for most in their online and mobile interactions.
“The future of technology has to be a lot more human and a lot more entertaining,” says Chung. He insists that the web is not wholly about information now — it’s about engaging and amusing. However, he says, “Expression on the web kind of sucks right now.”
Along with a slideshow of GIFs (pronounced — for the record — with a hard-G), Chung explains to the Techweek crowd how boring he finds Google search. If you Google “happy,” he explains, you get technical definitions on a platform that “looks exactly like it did in 1994.” If you click images, you’ll see smiley faces.
“When is the last time you sent a link to a smiley face?” he asks, disgusted at the idea. “You’re never going to do that.”
Giphy’s ambition is to become the search platform of the future: to package search results of information alongside GIFs to create a truly expressive experience. Not only this, but Chung imagines a world where people aren’t pulled into websites by headlines, but by moving images.
They have already integrated with new partnerships, and Chung referenced a relationship with the Weather Channel on an application that includes a real time GIF of the weather. This sort of thing is an ideal situation to combine partnerships, says Chung, a nod to the advertisers in the group.
“We have a partnership with Game of Thrones,” says Chung. “We could make a Game of Thrones weather app.” He pulls up a slide of a beautiful sunny day, complete with a dragon flying away from the Khaleesi. GIFs, he insists, are a way to combat boring information in an entertaining way.
Their probability of success hinges on whether Chung is right — do we care more about being entertained than being linked to a news report? Can a GIF really express an emotion better than words?
“We think that this is the future of expression, information, and search — all packaged in an entertaining format,” says Chung. “We’re a year away from every college and high school kid figuring this out, and after that the rest of the world can figure it out as well.”